Explore: Butler County, PA

All of Butler County, except for a small area in the northwest corner,  lies in the Appalachian Forest ecoregion (Western Allegheny Plateau).  Wolf Creek Narrows is one of the sites listed below that falls in the sliver of Mixed Woods Plains ecoregion found in northwest Butler County. Enjoy EXPLORE-ing these wonderful places in Butler County.

Todd Nature Reserve

Location:  Sarver, PA

Description:  This Reserve is the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania’s first reserve.  It features six miles of scenic hiking trails, three streams, a man-made pond and provides a plethora of opportunities for exploring and birding!  Located in Sarver PA, Todd Nature Reserve consists of 334 acres where visitors can take in the sights and sounds of nature all while enjoying tranquil walks along a variety of trails. Todd Nature Reserve is a significant natural resource in Pennsylvania offering a picturesque, rugged landscape and notable, rustic trails.

It is part of Pennsylvania Audubon’s Buffalo Valley Important Bird Area program, as well as the Buffalo Creek Watershed Conservation Plan.  The area is known to be a habitat for a multitude of birds. In fact, over 180 species of birds have been found on-site, including pileated woodpecker, scarlet tanager and Kentucky warbler. On Friday mornings from April-September, the Audubon Society conducts naturalist-led free “Birds and More Walks” through the reserve giving visitors the opportunity to spot other animals like deer, bears and unique species of plants.

The GladesState Game Lands 95

Location:  Moniteau, PA

Description:  The Glades (State Game Lands 95) consists of several discrete areas in northern Butler County. The largest and most important for birds is centered on Glades Lake, a 2.5-mile shallow lake dammed at the north end. The lake is bordered by extensive and diverse wetland habitat, which includes emergent marshes, swamps, and wet meadows. There is also mature hardwood forest, open field, and scrub-shrub thickets.

The high diversity of habitat types at this site results in high diversity of species, with at least 90 breeding species. The marsh and swamp habitats are the preeminent feature and support breeding species such as Wilson’s snipe, pied-billed grebe, Virginia rail, and sora. A pair of bald eagles regularly nests around the lake. Sandhill cranes have been observed in migration. The thickets and woodlands support a wide variety of songbirds. In all, more than 200 species have been recorded at the site. Exact figures for numbers of breeding individuals are scarce owing to the difficulty in surveying the wetland birds.

Moraine State Park

Location:  Portersville, PA

Description:  Moraine State Park is 16,725 acres, with 1,750 square feet of beach, 71 miles of trails and 42 miles of shoreline.  It is the third largest park in Pennsylvania.  The park offers a wide variety of environmental education and recreational programs. Through hands-on educational activities, guided walks, and evening programs, participants gain appreciation, understanding, and a sense of stewardship toward natural and cultural resources.

Ranging from an average depth of 11 feet to about 36 feet deep near the dam, the shallow waters of Lake Arthur are home to a variety of warmwater fish.  Frogs, newts, turtles, and water snakes prowl the edges of the lake.  Great blue herons, green herons, and belted kingfisher prey on minnows and fish fry.  During the early spring, common loons stop at the lake on their migration north.

Osprey may be seen flying over Lake Arthur. Once extirpated from Western Pennsylvania, these “fish hawks” have been reintroduced to Moraine through a hatching program began in 1993.  The first osprey pair to nest along Lake Arthur because of this effort raised three young in 1996. Due to a successful reintroduction program statewide, the osprey population has recovered and is continuing to expand. Bald eagles also are actively nesting in the park.  A waterfowl observation deck is along Park Road.

Jennings Environmental Education Center

Location:  Slippery Rock, PA

Description:  Located in Slippery Rock, Jennings Environmental Education Center is one of Butler County’s most unique parks to visit. Situated on 300 acres, Jennings provides a combination of protected prairie and forest and is the only protected prairie system in Pennsylvania. Visitors can hike year-round on their 5-mile trail system through various terrains or stroll through the 20-acre prairie ecosystem, home to distinctive prairie plants and the endangered massasauga rattlesnake.  The Education Center also provides information about the environment and covers topics like fossils, trees, wildflowers, ecosystems, maple sugaring, and more.

One flower that is abundant in the Jennings prairie is the magnificent blazing star. Normally associated with Midwestern prairies, its occurrence in Pennsylvania is unique because it is outside of its normal range.  Wildflowers and grasses support a vast array of butterflies and moths, as well as other insects that serve as food for amphibians, birds, and small mammals. The amphibians and small mammals, in turn, are food for the massasauga rattlesnake.

Wolf Creek Narrows Natural Area

Location:  Slippery Rock, PA

Description:  Wolf Creek Narrows is particularly known for its spectacular display of spring wildflowers, which includes Virginia bluebell, spring-beauty, trout-lily, and white trillium. Later in the summer, water willow, a low, shrubby plant with violet and white flowers, grows in thick beds within the shallow, rock-bottomed stream. Turks-cap lily adds color to the open floodplain at the southeastern corner of the property. The unusual walking fern, a small calcium loving species, can be found growing on some of the limestone boulders. The uncommon crepis rattlesnake root is found along the floodplain. Periodic flooding and ice scouring maintain the open conditions required by this species.

It is believed that the steep, narrow gorge of Wolf Creek originally formed when the ceiling of an ice-age cave eroded and collapsed due to runoff from the melting glacier. The site now consists of a high-quality stream meandering through towering 50-foot cliffs. Numerous springs pour from cracks in the steep walls, creating small waterfalls that flow into Wolf Creek. Restricted land-use and limited logging by the previous owners have resulted in mature stands of sugar maple and black cherry on the upper slopes, and a mixed hemlock-northern hardwood forest along the banks of Wolf Creek.

Succop Nature Park

Location:  Butler, PA

Description:  Operated by the Western Pennsylvania Audubon Society, Succop Nature Park, is 50 acres of woodlands, gardens, and lush meadows. Located in Penn Township, the property also contains two ponds, dog friendly walking trails, and open natural spaces. These areas offer a serene environment to connect with birds and nature. 

Succop Nature Park was established for the purpose of providing an environmental and cultural education center for the community. They offer on-site classes open to the public, year-round naturalist-led free morning walks and more.  The walk is every Thursday morning and starts at 9am.  One of the major events hosted by Succop is Maple Madness that takes place annually in March. During maple madness, visitors experience the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of maple sugaring as they embark on a guided hike throughout the park followed by a pancake brunch.

Glade Run Lake

Location:  Valencia, PA

Description:  Glade Run Lake is a 52-acre manmade lake, surrounded by luscious woodlands and farmlands. Used for recreation, conservation, and education this beautiful lake offers fishing, motorless boating and hiking.  Hikers can expect to see a myriad of bird species as well as other wildlife including frogs, squirrels, chipmunks, and deer. Throughout the spring and summer, native wildflowers can be seen along the trail edge too. 

Glade Run Lake Park is considered by many to be a birder’s paradise. Home to over 150 different species of birds, the lake and surrounding natural landscape provide excellent habitat for birds of all sorts. Bring a pair of binoculars and roam the park property to see what winged species you may encounter. No matter if you choose to stay along the lake shore, hike the trail, or launch your boat and get out on the water, you will likely see some feathered friends along the way.

North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT)

Location:  Multiple

Description:  This scenic trail spans 4,600 miles over eight states from North Dakota to Vermont, and it can be accessed in Butler County.  The NCT is the longest National Scenic Trail in the National Trails System and is the only national trail to stretch west to east. Butler County is fortunate to have 265 miles of the trail in Western Pennsylvania.  The Trail in Butler County winds through the forested hills of the Allegheny Plateau in Western Pennsylvania. The Trail skirts Lake Arthur in Moraine State Park passing by the Muddy Creek Dam. The Trail then follows an old Indian path which follows the high ground north through hardwood and pine forests past the Jennings Environmental Education Center to the historic Old Stone House (1882), a restored inn on the stage coach route from Pittsburgh to Erie. The Trail passes by West Sunbury and through 13 miles of trail in the forested Pennsylvania State Game Lands 95 in northern Butler County. Another 4-mile segment passes remnants of the early oil industry along Bear Creek and crosses the mouth of Bear Creek.

Updated: March 2021